What Are the Benefits of ADU Housing & Garage Conversion?

ADU housing and home additions are becoming increasingly popular with the current housing market. Here’s what you need to know about them.

The current housing market offers tight inventory, increasing prices, and less new construction. As these factors increase the overall cost, current homeowners are searching for ways to either decrease their spending, optimize the space they currently have, and earn extra income in the process.

The current market also leads potential buyers to seek new housing arrangements outside of apartment- or condo-living. ADU housing, also known as accessory dwelling units, perfectly fill that unique space in the market.

These affordable options benefit existing homeowners as well as renters. Some studies estimate that these units now make up as much as 10-20% of the market of large metropolitan areas, and are steadily becoming more popular in smaller cities.

What Is ADU Housing?

An accessory dwelling unit is a secondary housing unit located on the same premises as an existing single-family residence.

They’re often referred to as mother-in-law suites, granny flats, ADU housing, or laneway housing.

They’re available in a variety of styles but all of them have the following common characteristics:

  1. They’re significantly smaller than the average home, typically no more than 800 square feet.
  2. ADU housing is always adjacent or very close to a primary residence.
  3. They’re not the same as so-called tiny houses.
  4. ADUs are separate from the primary residence.
  5. Homeowners can not purchase this independently of the primary residence.

Types of Structural Configurations

Accessory dwellings are built in a wide range of configurations that fit seamlessly into the size and design of existing structures.

These are included but not limited to basement and garage apartments, or small cottages on the same grounds as a main residence.

1. Above Garage

Homeowners build these above an existing garage. This construction can include additions to an existing garage, or by converting part of a tall garage so that the home is still above a useable garage space.

2. Additions

These are sometimes referred to as bump-out units. The new structures are adjacent to the main residence.

3. Detached New Construction

Remodeling includes new construction near the main residence as a stand-alone facility.

4. ADU Garage Conversions

These are formed by transforming an existing garage into its own self-sufficient unit.

5. Internal Conversions

These are formed when part of the main residence is converted into its own self-sufficient unit.

All of these configurations, whether detached or attached to the primary residence, are intended to function as self-sufficient facilities.

They will have their own bathroom, bedroom, and kitchen facilities.

Most include a private, separate entrance from the primary residence.

Small cabinetry or other such storage space is common within the unit but large storage areas aren’t typically a part of construction in accessory dwellings.

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The Impact of ADU Housing

Accessory dwellings are not only beneficial to their inhabitants, but also to the economy and environment.

People who inhabit accessory dwellings add to the local economy by using local shops. Money saved on housing is also used within the community.

These residences also add overall value to the existing residence and offer potential extra income for homeowners.

These smaller residences allow neighborhoods to grow without dramatically changing the overall character of the neighborhood.

They add living space without taking up as much space as new construction.

ADUs decrease the need to expand infrastructure such as roads.

Because accessory dwellings are smaller than the average single-family home they have less of an environmental impact than other housing options.

This housing requires less energy use in their construction and maintenance. Construction also requires a smaller amount of materials to build them, and residents use less energy to heat and cool them.

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Your Guide to Creating Your Own ADU

The most common means of adding a secondary residence to a premises is by converting an existing garage.

It’s the most economical way to add space and is relatively easier for most homeowners.

1. Cost

Converting an existing garage into its own ADU housing is less expensive than building an addition intended for the same purpose.

The foundation and structural elements already exist so the conversion requires less materials and labor for those aspects.

Additionally, there’s less likelihood of needing costly engineering services.

Remodeling a garage typically costs about half of the price it would be to build a separate addition.

The national average hovers around $15,000 but largely depends on the features involved.

A one-car garage converted into a studio-style apartment will cost considerably less than turning a two-car garage into a one-bedroom residence.

Additionally, your choice of appliances will make a big difference to your bottom line.

2. Ease

Changing a garage into an apartment is an easier process than creating some of the other configurations.

There’s less time involved because the foundation and walls are already in place; less machinery, workers, and mess will be on premises.

Also, remodeling the interior of the garage doesn’t disrupt whatever takes place inside the home.

Building an addition on premises, or changing your interior structure can take several months to complete, while a garage renovation can take a few weeks.

Once you’ve decided to convert your garage into ADU housing, then you’ll want to consider the following before starting:

  1. Decide on a floorplan based on the location of existing plumbing and electrical utilities.
    •      —    Changing the location of those utilities adds expense and time to the project.
  2. Consult a licensed contractor to ensure that the work is in accordance to local building codes.
    •      —    ADUs aren’t legal in all communities. A contractor will navigate tricky local ordinances.
  3. Make sure that this type of remodel is acceptable to your Home Owners Association.
    •      —    Some organizations have strict policies governing who may enter the community, and how homeowners can use a property.


The current housing market makes it a great time to consider constructing an accessory dwelling unit, or ADU housing, on your property.

They offer additional income and equity for the homeowner, and affordable housing for the renter or loved one.

ADU’s are also good for the environment and local economies. Many different types of ADU’s exist but the most common is by simply converting a existing garage into its own livable space.